Promotional services are those services that help to get the word out about a product, service, or company. Along with actually marketing the product, distributing the product, and pricing the product, promotional services are one of the four major components of marketing. There are two major branches of promotional services: those that happen above the line and those that happen below the line. Both types are important in effectively informing consumers about a product or line, but both function in very different ways.
Above the line promotional services are those direct advertisements seen in media. Above the line promotions are usually placed by an ad agency, chosen by the advertiser to best represent their product or company. Above the line promotional services may use television, newspapers, the internet, or radio as their avenue of education, but they are nearly always very intentional and overt as to their promotional nature.
Below the line promotional services are all the other forms of promotion that a company may use to inform the public about their product or company. In many cases, below the line services may not even be recognizable as forms of promotion, making them a covert form of advertising. Consumers may see this sort of covert marketing and not realize it is associated with the company itself, which often makes the message it is conveying even more impacting.
Some examples of below the line promotional services include direct mail campaigns, individual selling, working trade shows, endorsements, coupons, product placement, brand tie-ins, sponsorship, sales, and merchandising. Each of these forms of promotion has an associated cost, and it is up to the marketing team to determine whether the value in education ultimately exceeds the cost of the strategy. Developing a full below the line promotional campaign is a complex job, and usually professionals will bring in marketing specialists specifically to do it.
In recent years, below the line promotional services have become ever more innovative, in an attempt to differentiate within a world crowded with constant marketing messages. A number of marketing firms specialize in especially daring or covert forms of marketing, sometimes referred to as guerilla marketing. These companies usually employee a number of very creative people who keep abreast on the most cutting-edge technologies to discover methods to leverage them as effective promotional vehicles.
For example, the use of games and interactive contests has become a very popular form of promotion in the past few years, especially with the increasing popularity of the internet. Various Flash-based games often lure consumers in with the prospect of an entertaining time, and over the course of the game a product or brand is shown many times, helping to build recognition among consumers. Interactive contests have also become popular, in many ways replacing older sweepstakes-style promotions. These contests request some form of involvement by consumers, such as creating a video, taking a photograph, or writing something about the product or brand. This not only engages the consumer on a much more deep level than a sweepstakes, it also generates future marketing materials for the company.